Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise at the Salzburg Festival

Rehearsals and interviews with Peter Sellars, Esa-Pekka Salonen, José Van Dam and Dawn Upshaw

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Go behind the scenes of Peter Sellars’ landmark 1992 production of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise in this documentary directed by Jean-Pierre Gorin. These controversial and ultimately universally-acclaimed Salzburg Festival performances of the composer’s first and only opera starred José van Dam and Dawn Upshaw, joined by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and Arnold Schönberg Choir under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Commissioned in 1975 by the acclaimed Paris Opera director Rolf Liebermann, Olivier Messiaen composed both the libretto and score of Saint François d’Assise by himself over the course of the following four years, selecting Catholic saint and fellow bird-lover Francis of Assisi as his opera’s protagonist. After its orchestration, the work was rehearsed and premiered in 1983 at the Paris Opera under Messiaen’s supervision. While these performances were beloved by audiences, critical reception was mixed, which is perhaps why it took almost ten years before the opera would again enjoy a full scenic production, an honor which it would receive in spades at the 1992 Salzburg Festival.

In his documentary, Jean-Pierre Gorin follows the development of Peter Sellars' Salzburg production from its rehearsals to its premiere. In addition to excerpted video footage, interviews with the opera’s stars José Van Dam and Dawn Upshaw, controversial director Peter Sellars, and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen give viewers an in-depth look at this overwhelmingly successful production.

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